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A computer-generated image of the intended Chinese investment hub in Athlone, Co Westmeath, according to the architect's preliminary plan Photo by: Irish Times

Chinese are coming and building one of the biggest developments in Ireland

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A computer-generated image of the intended Chinese investment hub in Athlone, Co Westmeath, according to the architect's preliminary plan Photo by: Irish Times

Plans for a 300-acre international China trade hub in Athlone have been unveiled.

The Europe China Trading Hub at Creggan, near Athlone, Co. Westmeath will provide a base for Chinese companies to promote business in Europe and the western world, the Irish Independent reports.

The proposed lucrative one-stop trade and exhibition center will initially create 1,530 jobs and the team involved say the first phase could be up and running in three years. The estimated cost of the five-phase development is $1.8 billion (1.4 billion euro).

John Tiernan, chief executive of Athlone Business Park Ltd, said construction could potentially begin by the end of 2013.

"It's big, yes. Some people have been gobsmacked by the overall scale of the masterplan but that is only if everything comes to pass," he said.

"I'm confident. But until the point when I'm told 'start pouring the concrete', there's always some doubt. And it's worth noting it's a project that does not produce waste water pipes with gunge coming out - it's a project that produces jobs."

The proposed new development will offer business executives in the U.S. easy access to the Chinese market while cutting down on travel time and the red tape associated with visa applications.

The proposed development will have a designated Irish section  to promote domestic business.
If all five phases are built the site will include shops, restaurants, pubs, a theatre, cinemas, a library, railway station, two bus stations and an underground car park.

Developers hope to open the first phase by mid-2015 with another possible five phases to follow.

The full business hub could be operational by 2022 and employ around 9,000 workers; two thirds of which must be Irish or European. It is understood that Chinese investors will finance the project and that Irish banks will play no part in lending.

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